I lived bitches. If you both read this blog, and pay some attention to the news you’re probably sort of freaking out right now lmfao. I’m actually not sure I’m supposed to be writing at all because at this point we’re past teen girl writes on her personal blog and into local idiot has surprising details about an impending medical disaster territory.
I’m gonna ask forgiveness not permission on this though, because on the off chance that you ARE reading this, and you’re living in northern California — you’re probably not going to get the real story from anywhere else. And also, like… what’s the likelihood of any of you believing a word I write on this thing anyways?
Oh god there’s a weird thought — am I totally spilling secrets rn? HA, there are people in this world working their absolute asses off to make sure that information about magic and cryptids stay out of the public eye, and here’s me, with my little blog like, hey you know that mild cold you’re hearing about? SEAL UP YOUR WINDOWS. DON’T GO OUTSIDE. IT’S AN UNSTOPPABLE FOG FROM ANOTHER WORLD.
That’s not even getting me STARTED on the insane ethical dilemma I’m using 100% of my energy to not think about. Like… shouldn’t we be telling everyone who will listen not to leave their fucking houses right now? Shouldn’t we be screaming from the rooftops to anyone who’ll listen to stay the fuck inside?
I should just tell you what happened lol sorry I’m totally stalling.
Thursday night there was another earthquake — comparatively mild, but enough to collapse the tunnel entrance we were supposed to use. So instead of just climbing down a manhole ladder into the tunnels, like we originally planned, we had to use an alternate cave entrance.
Kelvin knew another entrance to the caves, but it wasn’t easy access. It was barely more than a crack in the side of a rocky hill, like maybe a mile away from town. We left in the early morning. Rook was already awake, on his back, watching the sky.
“Are you ready?” he asked as I squirmed out of my sleeping bag.
“No idea,” I replied, which was the exactly truth. Lately, I live in a nice little bubble about ten miles away from any given thing that happens to me.
We hiked out to the cave entrance in blue morning before the sun rose. We were a grim, quiet party. The Walthers made it their personal business to keep an eye on Kelvin, but apart from their occasional barked direction and the sound of all our crunching feet on the path, no one spoke.
The cave entrance was literally just a crack. I would have missed it if Kelvin hadn’t been there to point it out. Just a jagged crack in the hill, and beyond it darkness.
“Alright,” Lana said, turning towards us. “I’ll go first. Kelvin, you come next. Lily, where do you need to be?”
“The back,” she said. “I’d like to be able to see everyone.”
Lily’s job was to keep the tunnels from collapsing on us, just in case.
“Alright,” Lana said. “Let’s get a move on. Hawthornes — you’re responsible for the kid.”
Oh yeah, Lana did NOT love that I was joining the expedition hahaha. She just about hogtied me and left me in her tent when I joined them that morning, but Neal went to bat for me. For someone who very confidently didn’t want me within 40 miles of this situation, he was pretty adamant that I come hahahaa. Any excuse to fight with Lana.
Getting into the cave was a delicate operation, ducking under and scooting across jagged rocks until I was inside.
A brief reminder about the last time I was in a cave: Madelyn was there.
This cave wasn’t wet at the entrance, not yet. It was a bit dusty, and the floor was uneven, and covered in small stones.
“Headlights on,” Lana said, even though it wasn’t all that dark yet.
Once we were inside I tested the boundaries of how I was feeling, and found I was okay. That’s the problem with these things — no individual step seems so bad, so if I just take it one step at a time, I can go deeper and deeper into a case, and hardly notice my mounting horror and dread. Like the frog and the boiling water. One minute I’m in a nice warm bath, and I don’t even notice I’m becoming soup until it’s too late.
It was a long walk. Was it a walk? I mean we were definitely walking, but we were also crawling and climbing and sliding along on our bellies. The deeper went, the damper everything seemed to get. Our footsteps and breathing echoed off the chamber walls, so it felt like there were more of us than there were, like we were being followed by the ghosts of ourselves.
It was a long walk, all of it down. In several places we had to turn back and go different routes to avoid cave-ins.
I felt like the earth was vibrating — or on the brink of vibrating. It was most likely in my head. The fact that at any moment the earth could shudder and swallow us whole was gnawingly relevant. I was jumpy, and also weirdly dissociated hahahaha. Julian asked me if I was okay, and I said yes, so I must have been fine. None of us could really look at each other without blinding each other with our headlight.
“How much further?” Lana asked, some two hours into our descent. It was difficult to determine how long we’d been down there. We’d just slid down a steep, narrow corridor, tight enough that if I swayed too far in either direction my shoulder would hit cave walls.
“We’re nearly there,” Kelvin said.
“How do we know it hasn’t moved?” Silas Walther asked.
Kelvin’s shadow shrugged ahead of us. “It was pretty wedged in there.”
And that’s all we were going on.
We came to the snake suddenly, and almost without warning. One minute we were single file, ducking a little down a narrow passage, and then suddenly, after hours of cramped tunnels, we spilled down a little step into what I could tell immediately was a much bigger chamber. The beam of my headlamp glanced across across a distant, craggy rock face. It appeared to be a greenish color, and covered in stalagmites, which we hadn’t seen much of in the rest of the cave, and I was observing the strange color of the stone when my headlamp flashed across a shiny disk, and the slit at the center narrowed suddenly, and I realized, with a jolt of primordial horror, that it was an eye.
I literally gasped and stumbled backwards, and would have fallen on my butt except Julian was there to catch me.
“Oh my word,” Kelvin breathed, drifting closer, and Lana shot out a hand to stop him.
The snake stuck out it’s tongue to taste the air. It’s tongue was like… longer than my entire body. When it smelled us it’s coils shifted and the chamber shuddered.
“Shit,” Lana hissed, as we all pitched into the walls. Lily flung out her hands to cast, just in case the cave started to crumble, but apart from a few rocks, skittering down the wall, it all held. “Shit, okay how do we do this?”
“Wait,” Kelvin said. He was already walking towards the snake, reaching a hand towards it.
“STOP,” Lana commanded, but he didn’t. Which like — I mean, go for it snake friend, eat that son of a bitch. On the other hand, I couldn’t remember how to get back to the earth, and maybe one of us did but was that a risk I’m willing to take?
Lana glanced at the Walters who nodded and strode forward purposefully.
They’d brought guns with silencers to do the job. The snake was just watching us with one great eye. Each of its scales were literally almost my height.
“No!” Kelvin said as the Walthers approached. “No, please — there must be another way. Look at it.”
And look — I fucking loathe that disgusting slimy worm of a man, but he had a point about the snake. It attempted to move again, and there was a distant, ominous rumbling, but apart from that, nothing happened.
“Why hasn’t it just broken through the cave?” Lily said, and boy did she have a point. This thing was HUGE, and there was so much of it we couldn’t see, unknown coils stretching down into the earth.
“Maybe it’s cold blooded,” Neal said, and everyone looked at him. “It’s a snake, right? It must be freezing down here, too cold to have the strength to break itself out of here.”
And I’m sorry I couldn’t help it: my heart broke.
“We need to get this over with,” Silas said, cocking his rifle and taking aim. Kelvin turned around and spread his arms wide as if he could protect the great expanse of snake with his little body. Silas didn’t even look at him, he just lifted the tip of his gun towards the snake’s eye.
“I thought we were going to at least try something else,” Neal said. “Lily can you —” but I saw Silas’ finger on that trigger and knew he was going to shoot. Mostly likely shoot and then apologize, and then none of us would have to feel guilty because we’d put up our little fight, but it was over and everyone was safe.
Like, I don’t know that’s what he was thinking, but that’s the kind of rugged man dude Silas is — like, toxic, but pretends he’s like that for your own good?
So what did I do? Oh god I can’t believe I did this.
I reached and grabbed the neck of the gun and pushed it up so when the shot went off, it hit the snake’s cheek instead of it’s eye, and glanced off. It cringed back, but couldn’t move back much. The cave rumbled again, but no earthquake started.
“What the fuck?” Silas snarled, rounding on me.
“Sorry,” I squeaked, shrinking back, and felt Julian’s hands on my shoulders, steadying me.
“We said we’d try other options,” Neal said and Silas rolled his eyes.
“Now it’s just scared,” he snapped. “That probably hurt. How it this better?”
But look, that shot probably felt like a bug bite on a snake that size. It wasn’t even bleeding.
“Lily, what would it take to put this thing back to sleep?”
Lily glanced at Lana before she answered. “Probably not much,” she said. “Neal’s right, it doesn’t seem particularly awake anyways. Though keeping it asleep is going to be a bit more of a trick.”
“But if you put it to sleep for now, that would solve the problem at least for a bit, right? Then we send down some witches later, figure out a way to put it to sleep properly?”
“That could potentially work,” Lily said, uncertainly.
“Why, so this thing can sleep down here for a few thousand years, and come up and destroy humanity some other time?” Silas snapped. “It would just be putting off the inevitable. We’re better off just killing this thing now.” And then before Neal could answer, “if your goal is to keep the poor thing from suffering, what good is making it sleep again?”
Neal had no answer for that, and neither did Julian, I could tell when they exchanged a look. Rage began to burn in my little belly hahaha.
It was unexpected. I’ve been known to have The Rage in the past, but man, it’s been a while hahaha. Mostly lately I’ve just felt The Fear.
“I’m doing this,” Silas said. “Grab her.” And before anyone could react, Danny Walther had me by the shoulder and jerked me backwards while Silas raised his gun to his eye and took the shot.
It hit the snake right in the eye, and it jerked away, bashing it’s head into the cavern wall. The whole cavern shuddered. The snake writhed, knocking rocks loose from the walls. Kelvin stumbled back, and only with some interference from Lily did he manage not to get crushed.
The snake made no sound apart from the horrible sound of skittering gravel as it shuddered and lurched, too stuck to escape us, ink-black blood splattering across the floor.
“Yeah, this definitely was better than the put it to sleep idea,” Neal growled as we slammed down behind a ledge of rocks, hoping that some shelter might help us, trying to get as far as we could from the snake even as the cavern trembled.
“Give it a sec, it’ll die,” Silas said.
“You don’t know that,” Julian said. “You might just have shot it in the eye.”
Silas didn’t answer as the snake bashed its injured eye against it’s own side.
“Guys,” Lily said, voice strained. “That thing needs to stop moving or this is all coming down on top of us.”
Silas stood and took aim again, but Lana had grabbed the SWORD that it turns out I wasn’t kidding about, and began to walk towards the snake. He cursed quietly, but when superhero girl grabs a sword, you pretty much let her do her thing.
Or at least, you probably SHOULD.
“She’s gonna need light,” Danny said, turning to face the snake so his headlamp pointed towards it, digging through one of our bags for one of the big flashlights.
And I just sat there, back against a rock, breath heaving, remembering the last time I was in a cave thinking about death. The poor snake thrashed in pain, the cavern shook.
I just couldn’t do it dudes, I couldn’t do it.
I took a deep breath, scrambled out from behind my rock and ran towards that snake full tilt, racing Lana.
“SHILOH,” Neal shouted after me, and I felt someone reach for me but I jerked hard and kept running, my headlamp flashing across rock and scales, until finally I was standing right in front of the great thing, my boots covered in snake blood.
“HEY,” I shouted at it and suddenly, there it was, it’s ruined eye even with my side, it’s long snout extending past me.
And it was at that point that I realized I had no idea what my plan was hahahahahahahahaha.
It made no effort to hurt me. It shuddered and blood splattered across me, then withdrew slightly and its great tongue slipped out to test the air, hard enough to knock me on my butt.
“Shiloh,” Lana cried behind me, frantic. “Just back up slowly, come here.”
I ignored her. Instead, I sat up, and when it’s tongue flicked again out I reached out to put my hands on it, and I can’t even…
I don’t know what happened but I felt — I mean I don’t know how to explain what I felt. I was so cold. Cold, sick, and trapped in the dark, my face aching and I didn’t understand why. Distantly, I remembered a different place: soft green moss, enormous trees, shadow and warmth and light filtering through green leaves. The trees were so big that even my long belly could not wrap all the way around, and they were full of heat, which I could feel through my scales as I coursed over them, tasting the air. I could taste prey in the air, but I wasn’t hungry, I was full and warm and content.
And then the tongue flicked back away from me and I was back in the cave, staring at my hands, and just sobbing, like totally overwhelmed, and suddenly aware of a very unpleasant truth: there was no saving this creature. Our world had no warm, giant trees for it, no prey big enough to feed it, no caves full of warmth for it to hibernate in. All we could offer this creature was cold and darkness.
It flicked it’s tongue out again, and I reached for it, and in the split second before I touched it again, the light of my headlamp flashed across Lana’s blade and then —
Look, I don’t know how to explain this.
Like the snake having a psychic tongue is insane, but tbh, I’ve met a dude who turned out to be just toxic sludge, so in the scheme of things… whatever, I don’t know
One minute, I was panicking because Lana was going to hack into the snake, and the next it was like a great wind was going through me, behind us in the dark Lily was screaming, and then the snake was dead. It was already dead when Lana’s sword clanged at the scales on it’s snout, and when she drove the sword into it’s eye to the hilt. It was already gone, and felt no pain.
“Lana!” Silas shouted, and I felt Lana turn to see what had happened. I just sat there on my knees, dumb, hands in my lap, totally dazed.
Neal skidded down next to me, headlamp bobbing, flashing in my eyes.
“Shiloh?” His hands were on my shoulders, shaking me. Or maybe the earth was just already shaking, I honestly can’t remember.
“Neal, we have to go!” Danny was shouting from across the cavern. There was some fuss going on about Lily, but I was too dazed to understand why.
The cavern was really beginning to shake. I tried to get to my feet, and found my legs wouldn’t support me. I was still a little bit a snake, my muscular belly pulling me up the trunk of one of those warm trees.
I like, barely remember how we got out of those caves. I remember Julian carrying me at one point, and crawling a lot on my hands and knees when the earth bucked under us.
I remember falling a bunch.
And then, eventually, we came to a tunnel that should have been open, that had been open on our way down — blocked.
Silas cursed loudly.
“Can you clear it?” Danny asked Lily.
“Is there another way?” Lana asked before Lily could answer. And with mounting intensity: “Kelvin, is there another way?”
“There is,” Kelvin replied. “There are a few more entrances, but it’s a bit of a ways. If there’s any way she can —”
“She can’t,” Lana snapped.
Lily managed a little mumble. “I can try.”
“No,” Lana said. “We don’t know what that just was, and this is not the time to experiment.”
Later I would find out that when the snake died, Lily just sort of collapsed. I don’t know the details — and it’s not like Lana’s advertising anything, obviously. But there’s a small part of me that remembers that feeling, like a strange wind was blowing through my body, that isn’t surprised that the sorceress felt something strange when the snake died, too.
We walked for so long. SO long. I can’t remember being more exhausted than I was down in those tunnels. Just us, and the dark, and the tremors, pressing in on us.
And then we came out into a small cavern.
“This is it,” Kelvin said. “Look.”
There was, unbelievably, a ladder, and above us, a faint change in the darkness. And all around us, in enormous glass drums, swirling fog.
“What the fuck,” Lana gasped.
“We used this to expand our storage space,” Kelvin explained. “Come on, we’re almost out now.”
Danny was the first to start climbing, then Kelvin, immediately followed by Silas. Julian and Neal exchanged a look, then Julian started up the ladder.
“Mk kid,” Neal said, and literally picked up my wrists and put my hands on the rungs. “I’ll be right behind you. Can you do it?”
I started climbing, even though my limbs were made of jelly.
The earth quake didn’t start until I was only a few rungs from the top. Even still, I lost grip for a moment, and if it hadn’t been for Neal basically body blocking me against the ladder, and Julian having turned back immediately upon getting to the top to reach hands back over the edge and haul me up, I probably would have fallen.
We all made it to the top, but it was really shaking now, and the whole place was rumbling ominously. We stumbled for the entrance, banging against the walls towards where I could see a different kind of darkness. I could smell fresh air already.
And then behind us, down in the caverns, I heard glass breaking.
And now you know how this story connects to the events of a certain small town.
Kelvin must have heard it, too, because he stopped abruptly and I slammed hard into him, headlights whirling.
Neal and Julian were both shouting at me, and I felt someone trying to haul me up, but Kelvin and I were too tangled together. Everyone was shouting.
I didn’t see the fog when it came upon us, all I heard was Neal shouting, “HOLD YOUR BREATH AND RUN,” and I just did what I was fucking told.
This cave entrance was more open, and I swear to god I have never felt any relief so sweet as I felt when sky opened up above me. I wanted to stop — I was fucking exhausted, and the air was so fresh — but behind me Neal was still shouting at me to run, so I kept going, as best as I could until I tripped on a root and down I went.
I spun in time to see the billow of fog swallow Neal and I screamed, which must have made Lily turn, because I saw her take a huge breath and blow as hard as she could, hard enough that the whole cloud of fog blew back across the grass, and there Neal was again, gasping on his hands and knees. I was so relieved to see him, that I almost missed Lily’s strangled yelp as she collapsed in the grass.
The fog, which should have dispersed in all this open air, seemed to billow and curl and shrink into itself before drifting off down the rocky hill. In the distance, below us, I could see the lights of a small, unsuspecting town.
I felt some despair and dread then, but it was distant and easy to gesture away. Instead I just looked up at the sky. I watched a satellite inch it’s way across it.
Lana made phone calls arranging to get people up here for transport. This cave entrance was further from town than the one we entered through, but it was closer to a road.
I just lay there in the rocky grass, watching the sky get darker and darker. Distantly I was aware of Neal and Julian coming to sit with me, but honestly, I was still thinking about that snake.
This all happened yesterday. Already, as I’m sure you know, people are experiencing strange symptoms after a thick fog began to envelop the grocery store of a small town I’m not going to name, but honestly — you can just look it up. There are Cierva witches and Lily’s students in town trying to contain the fog.
Lily woke up at some point this afternoon. She’s shaky but apart from that, totally okay. None of has any idea what happened to her.
“Sometimes we just don’t get to know,” Neal explained when I asked what happened to her. “Who knows what kind of magic exists out there. We’re just lucky she seems okay.”
I’m so fucking tired. Everything is in motion around us. I feel a little better now that I wrote it all down, but god, fuck underground, fuck going underground, fuck caves, never again.
Last night I dreamed of the snake. Rook had to wake me up because I was freaking out in my sleep. The thing is though is that remembering the snake isn’t what’s bugging me — I know that there was no better option for it. I couldn’t leave it down there. There was nowhere for it to go. It wasn’t meant for this world and my heart is broken, but what else could we do?
What’s getting me is that it was already dead when Lana got to it. Like it must have been that shot to the eye, and I know that, but I can’t stop thinking about that moment, replaying it in my head: flash of headlamp light Lana’s sword, that flash of panic, then something going through me, stealing my breath. I trapped there, replaying it over and over. I’m gonna listen to some music, maybe then I’ll sleep